Goodbye to the Castros

Fidel and Raúl Castro have left their surname branded in blood and fire on the history of Cuba of the last sixty years (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 April 2018 – One impulsive and the other pragmatic, one charismatic and the other lacking any magnetism, the brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro have left their surname branded in blood and fire on the history of Cuba of the last sixty years. This week the generational relay knocks on the door of the powerful family clan that plans to leave the spotlight but not to let themselves get too far from power.

There was a time when Cuban children calculated how old we would be when the new century arrived. We imagined becoming adults in a millennium dyed red with the Communist flag, where money and misery did not circulate. However, the Berlin wall fell, the illusion broke into a thousand pieces and our personal arithmetic shifted to counting how old we would be when Castroism fell. continue reading

That day has arrived, but not as we thought. Instead of an epic overthrow with people waving flags in the streets, the Cuban regime has been fated to fade away like an old photograph: without grace or romance. That process began twelve years ago when Fidel Castro fell ill and transferred the command of the country through his bloodline to his younger brother.

Raúl Castro had to contend with the complex inheritance he received. A nation in numerous reds, with an increasingly apathetic citizenry, an exodus that rejected the supposed socialist paradise narrated by the official propaganda, a network of prohibitions suffocating daily life and a deficient institutional framework languishing under the whims of the Commander-in-Chief.

“Without haste but without pause” was the motto chosen by Raulismo to attempt to fix some of those wrongs. The General came to win the ironic moniker of “gradual revolutionist” because in the face of most of the country’s pressing problems he revealed himself more in the style of a cautious and rancid conservative than someone with the urges of a former guerrilla.

The first thing he did was dismantle Fidelismo, that personal system his brother built in his own image and likeness: capricious, violent, adamantine and vociferous. Without lifting the repressive hand, the second brother put an end to several “absurd prohibitions,” as he called them then, which left the bars of the national cage more visible and rigid.

Oriented in the right direction, but with the speed of tortoise and only skin deep, Castro II authorized the sale of homes, frozen for decades; he allowed Cubans to contract for cellphones, until then a privilege enjoyed only by foreigners; and launched travel and immigration reform on the prison island.

Under the euphemism of self-employment the private sector was encouraged by his hand; the country opened to foreign investment and thousands of acres of land, left fallow for years, were leased to those who would work them. Even public ideological demonstrations lessened, the mass political campaigns to which his brother was addicted were buried, and a process of comptrollership was launched to try to stop waste, corruption and inefficiency in state enterprises.

In those years, between July 2006 and January 2013, Raúl Castro spent all of his political capital, exhausting a government program that had very clear limits: maintain the socialist system, avoid increasing social inequalities at all costs, and stop any attempt toward political plurality.

As Raulism began to languish, on 17 December 2014 came the news of the diplomatic thaw between the White House and the Plaza of the Revolution. For almost three years the world believed that the “Cuba problem” was solved, when it saw Chanel parading on the Paseo del Prado, Madonna dancing in a Havana restaurant, and the Kardashian family driving around the island in an old car.

But the dream of normalization was short-lived. Raul Castro was afraid of losing control and did not respond to the measures taken by Barack Obama with the necessary complement from the island. After the official visit of the US president, the official media intensified criticism of Washington and the honeymoon ended. A divorce was inevitable with the arrival of Donald Trump to the White House.

Fearful of the thousand-headed hydra he had unleashed with his ‘capitalist’ reforms, Castro backed down or froze several of the flexibilizations that had earned him the label of “reformist.” As of August of last year the issuing of most private sector licenses is frozen, travel bans decreed against opponents have increased in recent months, and the official discourse has turned its criticism against local entrepreneurs.

The ruling octogenarian could not solve two of the biggest problems: unifying the two currencies circulating on the island and increasing the paltry salaries paid to the majority of the population. He also failed to stop the exodus of Cubans from the island, or to implement effective policies to raise the birth rate, a serious problem for a nation that is expected to be the ninth oldest country in the world by 2050. Nor did he manage to clean up the state sector corroded by corruption and the lack of efficiency.

However, the greatest failure of the General during the decade of his two terms was his inability to push the necessary political reforms needed to deliver a more orderly house to the generational change. Faced with the dilemma of keeping all power or ceding a part to avoid a dramatic fracturing in the future, the younger Castro was not very different from his brother; he chose absolute control.

He knows that although he methodically planned the succession and chose a docile and manageable heir in first vice president Miguel Diaz-Canel, the personal system he inherited from his brother does not lend itself to a division of responsibilities.

As long as he maintains control over the Communist Party, which the Constitution establishes as the leading force of the country, Raul Castro will be able to keep an eye on this technocrat, who was raised in his shadow and is well aware that any attempt at autonomy could mean his fall. But the old guerrilla knows that the end of his life is approaching and that favored sons become unpredictable when their mentor no longer breathes.

The successor inherits a country in crisis and a society discouraged, an unfavorable international context whose clearest signs are the shift in the ideological course across Latin America and the almost unanimous rejection of his Venezuelan ally, Nicolás Maduro. It is up to him to end the dual currency system, deepen the economic reforms to attract investors and expand the private sector.

Unlike his predecessors, he did not participate in the conflict waged in the Sierra Maestra or in the assault on the Moncada barracks. He will have to build his legitimacy on the results of his management and the realization of real and broad political reform. The myth has ended and for the historical generation, which prevailed with terror and charisma, the days are numbered.

The Castro era concludes and we children of yesteryear are in the maturity of our lives. Many of us fell along the way without knowing another system. Now we return to our personal arithmetic: how old will we be when Cuba is truly free?

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This article was originally published in the Spanish newspaper El País.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Havana, Year Zero

The majority of Cubans are tied to a daily cycle of survival (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 17 April 2018 — My mother was born under the Castro regime, I was born under the Castro regime and my son was born under the Castro regime. At least three generations of Cubans have lived only under the leadership of two men with the same surname. That uniformity is about to be broken on April 19 when the name of the new president will be publicly announced. Whether he maintains the status quo or looks to reform it, his arrival to power marks a historical fact: the end of the Castro era on this Island.

Despite the closeness of this day, without precedent in the last half century, in the streets of Havana expectations are extremely low. In a country on the cusp of experiencing a transcendental change in its Nomenklatura that could begin in couple of days. continue reading

At least three reasons feed this indifference. The first is the regrettable economic situation that keeps the majority of people tied to a daily cycle of survival, one in which political speculations or predictions of a different tomorrow are tasks relegated to other emergencies, like putting food on the table, traveling to and from work, or planning to escape to other latitudes.

The second reasons for so much apathy has to do with the pessimism that springs from a belief that nothing will change with a new face in the official photos, because the current gerontocracy will remain in control through a docile and well-controlled puppet. Meanwhile, the third force engendering so much ennui is knowing no other scenario, of having no references that allow on to imagine that there is life after the so-called Historic Generation.

This feeling of fatality, that everything will continue as it is now, is the direct result of six decades of, first, Fidel Castro, and later Raul Castro, controlling the Island with no other person to cast shadows or question their authority at the highest rung of the government. By remaining at the helm of the national ship, by their force in crushing the opposition and eliminating other charismatic leaders, both brothers have shown themselves, throughout this entire time, to be an indispensable and permanent part of our national history.

More than 70% of Cubans were born after that January in 1959 when a group of barbudos – bearded men – entered Havana, armed and smiling. Shortly after that moment, school textbooks, all the media of the press and government propaganda presented the “revolutionaries” dressed in olive green as the fathers of the nation, the messiahs who had saved the country and redeemed the people. They spread the idea that Cuba is identified with the Communist Party, the official ideology of a man named Castro.

Now, biology is about to put an end to that chapter of our history. The Cuban calendar could have, in this, its year zero, a new beginning, However, instead of people waving flags in the plazas, of enthusiastic young people shouting slogans, or epic photos, the feeling one perceives everywhere is that of exhaustion. The stealthy attitude of millions of people whose enthusiasm has atrophied after a very long wait.

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This text was  originally published by Deustche Welle’s Latin America page.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

An Embarrassment

More than fifty Cuban pro-government and a dozen Venezuelans screamed “mercenaries” as they hijacked the start of the meeting between representatives of governments and members of civil society. (EFE / Alberto Valderrama)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 16 April 2018 — The echoes of the recently concluded Summit of the Americas are beginning to fade. The event that summoned most of the presidents of the region and served as a framework for various social forums is a thing of the past. However, the images of the deplorable performance of the official Cuba delegation remain fresh in our memory.

The ‘civil society’ that Raul Castro sent to Peru provokes, at the very least, at sense of embarrassment over the actions of others. Their contemptuous faces and their intolerant screams spread the idea that the inhabitants of this Island have no talent for debate, we lack the necessary respect for differences and respond to arguments with shouts. continue reading

They, with their calculated bullying and their picket line behavior, have seriously affected the image of the nation. Under the slogan “Don’t mess with Cuba,” they ended up damaging this country’s reputation in the region even more, a prestige already greatly undermined by our having tolerated, as a people, more than half a century of an authoritarian system.

Why did these shock troops insist on their performance knowing the backlash they engendered? Because the message to be transmitted was precisely that of a horde of automatons without nuance or humanity. Their bosses in Havana trained them to present that sad spectacle, exposed them to ridicule, and used them to make it clear that nothing has changed.

Over time, as has happened so often, some of the protagonists of these escraches will ascend to positions of greater responsibility as a reward for the decibels they achieved with their cries. Others will emigrate, using the opportunity of some official trip to escape from the country, and try to forget making such fools of themselves. But they will never apologize to the victims of their aggressiveness.

The new stain on the image of the nation will last longer than the false intransigence of these soldiers disguised as citizens. They will move on, but the shame will remain.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Opinion: Lula’s Final Hour

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil. (Picture-alliance/AP Photo/E. Perezs

Deutsche Welle, Yoani Sanchez, 6 April 2018 — A few years ago, the socialism of the 21st century, that populist imitation that deftly disguised itself with a discourse of social justice and opportunities for all, seemed to be in full force in Latin America. The region was dotted with leaders who resembled something more than the ideology they embraced: they loved to hear themselves speak in public, they suffered from a chronic intolerance of political opposition and they believed they embodied the feeling of an entire nation.

That motley explosion of charismatic and authoritarian leaders ranged from the vociferous Hugo Chávez, to the arrogant Rafael Correa, the coca grower Evo Morales, and the popular Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The latter was described as having emerged from the most humble strata of Brazilian society and, once in Planalto Palace, to have promoted changes to lifting more than 30 million people up from poverty. With these credentials, it was difficult not to applaud him and many international organizations fell at the feet of the steelworker become president. continue reading

However, behind the image of an austere man and implacable enemy of political corruption, Lula was creating his own networks of favors and support to which he responded with privileges and perks. The Workers’ Party became a more powerful force every day, one that harassed its political opponents, supported untenable regimes like that of Cuba and was constantly accused of diverting funds and mismanagement. However, Lula maintained his impressive popularity in Brazil and almost unanimous support beyond its borders.

Now, the former trade unionist seems to be coming to the end of his road. Last year he was convicted of corruption and money laundering and this month the Supreme Court rejected the last legal recourse to stop his imprisonment. Although the seasoned populist still draws crowds and leads the polls for the October elections, on his last tour of Brazil eggs were thrown and taunts shouted.

Cornered, the former president has chosen to to keep running forward. He has redoubled his discourse to the popular classes and has presented the whole judicial process in which he is immersed as an attempt to silence him politically or as a revenge of the elites and his old ideological adversaries. Others, however, accuse him of running for president to elude justice. Despite this attack from the podiums and from the media, it has not managed to prevent the myth from suffering major cracks.

With the conviction of Lula, part of the illusion that he fueled also falls, that of a leader who rises from below, who understands the poor, who will never steal from them. His fall from grace is also a blow to the left’s populist forces in the region, many of them tarnished by corruption scandals linked to the extensive maneuvers of Brazilian giant Odebrecht.

The socialism of the 21st century was not only killed by its own inefficiency in finding solutions to the serious problems of the continent, but by its dirty financial management. Their most distinguished representatives encouraged networks of loyalties and bribes that ended up taking their toll. The coup de grace was not “the empire” so much reviled, nor the “bourgeoisie,” but their own ambition.

Which One Is The Criminal?

The brothers Raul and Fidel Castro together with Lula (center) in 2010, when the former Brazilian president visited the island at the time of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo. (Juventud Rebelde)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 April 2018 — In 2010, then Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva provoked a bitter controversy when he compared Cuban dissidents to common criminals. Those words, said a week after the death of the opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, take on a new meaning today, a few hours before the Brazilian leader goes to prison.

“I think hunger strikes cannot be used as a human rights pretext to free people,” said the former steelworker, eight years ago in March. “Imagine what would happen if all the bandits who are imprisoned in Sao Paulo went on hunger strike and asked for their freedom,” he remarked cheerfully. continue reading

For Lula, the dissident who agonized in his cell until he died was nothing more than a criminal who refused to eat for 86 days to pressure the authorities to release him from prison. Despite publicly lamenting his death, Brazil’s president believed the official version of Zapata’s death and insisted the Cuban bricklayer, born in Banes, was not a political prisoner.

Now it is the popular trade unionist who has been tried in the courts of justice and public opinion. He came to this point not because he protested police repression in the streets, as Zapata did, but because of corruption and money laundering. As president of his country he betrayed the voters’ trust by exchanging favors, receiving bribes and handing out contracts.

Under the image of a humble man who ascended to the highest position in an imposing nation like Brazil, Lula was in fact a “political animal” accustomed to prioritizing ideology and his old ‘comrades in the struggle’ over the welfare of his people. As soon as he settled into Planalto Palace he began to create his own robust network of perks and fidelities that ultimately blew up in his face.

In this network of favors were not only some of his old comrades from Brazil’s Workers Party, but also those from outdated regimes like Havana’s. Lula solicitously served the Castro brothers the entire time he was in office, an attitude inherited by Dilma Rousseff when she succeeded him in office.

For the Cuban Government the years during which the Workers Party led Brazil served as a panacea. Lula and Rousseff closed ranks to support the Plaza of the Revolution in international forums, kept their shock troops at the ready to attack any critics of the Castros, and financed the Port of Mariel Special Development Zone project, which involved the corrupt Brazilian transnational Odebrecht.

In the name of those old favors, on Thursday the Havana regime released a statement signed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in defense of the former president, calling his sentence an “unfair campaign against Lula, against the Workers Party and against the leftist and progressive forces in Brazil.” Some corruption is repaid with apartments, some with bribes, and much of the rest with political statements.

Lulu’s 12 year prison sentence could well be extended much longer, should the magistrates find him guilty in other pending cases. His time behind bars could be long, enough time to allow him to reflect on everything he has said and done.

Perhaps in the long days that await him looking through the thick bars, the former president can imagine what Zapata’s last days might have been like for the young black bricklayer born in a small town in the east of the island who refused to eat or drink water to demand his freedom. That man, unlike Lula, was innocent.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Lessons From A Planned Succession: Angola and Cuba

United by the slave trade and, later, by geopolitics, today Angola and Cuba are closely linked in a way that goes beyond beyond cultural ties. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 28 March 2018 – United by the slave trade and, later, by geopolitics, Angola and Cuba are today experiencing a similar moment beyond cultural ties or military pacts. Both countries are going through a process of succession from the historic leadership, which, in the case of Luanda, is defying more than one forecast.

When the oil producing nation began a new chapter in its history last year and José Eduardo Dos Santos left the presidency, after almost four decades, everything pointed to the transfer of power being a maneuver to prolong the status quo and to ensure the former president’s family remained well situated.

Joao Lourenço, who had occupied the post of Minister of Defense, was chosen to succeed the man whose face is still on the currency and whose official propaganda surrounded him with an exalted cult of personality. JLO, as Lourenço is also known, was seen as a stand-in, a puppet who would be closely managed by Dos Santos. continue reading

Among the 27 million inhabitants of the African country, many were born or grew up under the shadow of the leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA). However, shortly after taking power, JLO began to dismantle his predecessor’s extensive web of family businesses. One of the first pieces to fall was Isabel Dos Santos, daughter of the former president, whom Forbes magazine has named the richest woman in Africa, with a personal fortune of around 4.5 billion dollars.

Isabel had been named in June 2016 as head of state oil company Sonangol, which controls more than 90% of the country’s crude exports. Last December Lourenço relieved her of her position, shortly after having also done the same to the Commander General of the National Police and the Chief of the Intelligence Service and Military Security.

The coup reached two of the family’s other children, son José Paulino and daughter Welwitschia, who had under their control the most important television networks. The new president, who during his inauguration had lavished praise on the father of these skilled businesspeople, took a few weeks to move on the man’s children.

A few days ago it was the turn of José Filomeno Dos Santos, formerly responsible for the Angolan Sovereign Fund, which has assets of more than 5 billion dollars. The son of the country’s former strong man has been accused by the Justice Department of defrauding the Central Bank of 500 million dollars and has been barred from leaving Angola.

Removing the Dos Santos children from those positions not only allows JLO to replace them with more trustworthy members of his administration, but it represents a sledgehammer against the network of nepotism that fueled his predecessor. This economic undermining translates into a loss of power in a country that ranks 164 out of 176 nations on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.

With its rich oil deposits, Angola continues to be a nation of deep social contrasts, hit by inflation and a country where bribes or thefts of public assets constitute the main sources of economic gateways for many officials and businessmen.

José Eduardo Dos Santos, who was reputed to be an “African Machiavelli,” is now a sick old man, unable to oppose his successor, who has abandoned the script of the transfer of power and is threatening to take his children to court.

The table is set so that the historical diatribe falls on his figure and the opposition – which he kept at bay with the blows of repression – is beginning to take advantage of the cracks in the dome. Although the old patriarch was left in his leadership position in the MPLA, he has had to call an extraordinary congress where it is very likely that a new leader will be elected.

It is difficult to resist the temptation to extrapolate these events to the situation that now exists in Cuba with the succession of Raúl Castro, the old ally who led thousands of men to die on African soil so that the MPLA could take power in 1975. Nor is the careful planning of generational change, which will take place in Cuba as of April 19, a guarantee against upsets.

From the Angolan experience, Castro can extract two lessons: puppets can cut their strings, and protecting a family clan is a difficult task when you do not have all the power.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuban Government Prepares for Pitched Battle at Lima Summit

Castro’s repressors hitting and kicking Leticia Ramos and Jorge Luis García Pérez ‘Antúnez’ during the VII Summit of the Americas in Panama. (marporcuba.org)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 March 2018 — The images of the Cuban government’s shock troops at the Summit of the Americas in Panama in 2015 will seem tame this April. The Government of the Island is preparing for the meeting of presidents and the Civil Society Forum in Lima, Peru, as if the event is a battlefield, one it plans to dominate by the volume of its cries.

Part of that confrontation began this Wednesday during the Hemispheric Dialogue, a preliminary meeting to set agendas and present the region’s numerous delegations. The speech Cuban ambassador Juan Antonio Fernandez delivered at the meeting advanced part of the strategy that will be deployed by the official delegation in a few weeks. continue reading

Setting aside the composure that his position as a diplomat requires, Fernandez opened in a vulgar tone, more worthy of a street fight than an international event. “With regards to Cuba, don’t you mess with us,” he spit out in response to a comment from Jorge Luis Vallejo, a member of the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy.

Fernandez’s threat, besides being a preview of the bad taste, attacks and even blows planned by the Plaza of the Revolution, rests on a grotesque generalization, defining the Island as synonymous with an ideology, a Party and a man in power, masking the plurality and diversity of ideas that exist in the country.

However, beyond the ambassador’s tantrum, it’s worth the effort to alert the organizers of the Summit, the Peruvian hosts who will have to deal with these intolerant people, about the signals the Castro nomenklatura is sending to let them know it will seek to tarnish the event, disrupt the Civil Society Forum and even generate disturbances.

In Panama, these hordes of extremists turned the hotel where both delegations (the pro-government and the independent) were staying, into a site of political trench warfare, where they shouted, pushed, and staged an ugly show of aggression and even frightened other guests who had nothing to do with Cuba.

Over the last three years, State Security has trained its ‘troops’ for the new confrontation style, polishing its discourse to hijack the terminology of the Forum, claiming possession of concepts that, until a few years ago, they considered “bourgeois,” such as “civil society,” “community” and “governability.”

This chameleon-like simulation will allow them to present themselves as autonomous civic entities, and claim their places in the plenary room and on the debate panels. Once there, they will remove their masks and exploit their arguments with their stubborn slogans. With them there is no room for nuance because they think in a binary way: “ally or enemy,” “Fidelista or mercenary,” “poor or rich,” “north or south.”

They want to send a loud and forceful message that Castro is still “alive and kicking” a few days before Raúl Castro finishes his second term and hands over the presidential chair to a hand-picked successor. The Lima Summit is a stage for this old gerontocracy to play-act at being modern, renewed and in charge of the future.

Among those who will carry that message is the vice president of the government’s National Union of Cuban Jurists, Yamila González Ferrer, who has made it clear that she will not share “any space with ‘elements’ and mercenary organizations.” However, she did not say if she planned to withdraw from the event, or drive out the independent activists with blows, or even prevent the sessions of the Forum from taking place.

Ferrer knows that a standout performance in Peru is a guarantee of future promotion, as happened with the psychologist Susely Morfa who was catapulted into the position of general secretary of the Union of Young Communists, after she screamed in the faces of dozens of dissidents and independent Cuban journalists in the lobby of El Panama Hotel at a previous summit.

Faced with the signs of an upcoming battle, members of the real civil society will have to arm themselves with a lot of patience and avoid provocations; it will serve them well not to respond to shouting with shouting, or insult with insults. The pro-government forces are just looking for this response to start the fight.

The best way to “face” this squad of screamers is with data, information and evidence that proves what happens inside the country. Preparing presentations or exhibitions with fewer adjectives and more evidence could be a good defensive strategy.

Another advisable attitude is not to offer only complaints about the present situation, or to play the role of victims. In Peru, independent activists and sources of information from the Island must show that they have proposals and ideas for Cuba’s future. They should make it known that, unlike the shock troops that attack them, they see a country with a future where there is room for everyone.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Cuba’s Press Faces The Challenge Of New Readers

Censorship is not enough to explain certain news deficiencies that still persist in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 14 March 2018 — “Hey, since when do you have wifi that you don’t buy my newspaper,” shouts a street vendor to a young woman walking along Tulipan Street in Havana. Despite the continuing monopoly of the Cuban press by the Communist Party, readers today have more news options thanks to the growing number of independent publications.

The road to get to this point has not been easy. In the process, thousands of articles were set aside unpublished, hundreds of careers in journalism were truncated, and an infinite number of stories never got told; but the main transformation in today’s news recipients is that they are increasingly demanding. continue reading

Long gone are the years when it was enough to tune into some prohibited station and listen to a citizen relating some complaint in their own voice through those microphones. Now, the information industry is expected to produce high quality professional work and to address a broader range of topics, among many other demands.

On this March 14, Cuban Press Day, we journalists, editors and media directors must be aware that our audience is watching us, that there is someone who is fed up with propaganda and expects to find the data to form their own opinion. They have not come to our site to read a manifesto, but rather a newspaper.

Journalists, editors and media directors must be aware that our audience is watching us, that there is someone who is fed up with propaganda and expects to find the data to form their own opinion

These readers can now choose between watching the news on state television or on the prohibited satellite dishes. They have in their hands the ‘weekly packet,’ with independent magazines in PDF format, news coming to them in text messages, and many listen to the traditional “lip radio” – news and gossip repeated face-to-face – to find out what is rumored on the streets.

Despite the high costs of web browsing, they also learn about news “published on the Internet” through acquaintances. When an official newspaper publishes a cryptic editorial, mentioning enemies or provocations, they appeal to a friend to help them read between the lines and fill in the references.

Censorship is not enough to explain certain news deficiencies that still persist in the nation, and repression should not be the justification to accommodate oneself to mediocrity. What we have suffered, the personal and social cost that each journalist has paid to perform his or her work, should not be a reason for lack of quality or boldness.

Readers, those severe judges who observe us, will not be convinced by our pain or by the wounds we have accumulated in our sides, but by the value and the veracity of the stories we tell.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

24 Hours Are Not The Life Of A Woman

For 24 hours everything will be done to stall women’s grievances. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 8 March 2018 — The grandmother was beaten by her spouse, the mother lost the sight of an eye from the fist of a drunken husband and she sometimes goes out in the street with sunglasses to hide the bruises. She is one more, among millions of Cuban women, of the many who have come to believe that in the “genetics lottery” they lost, carrying two X chromosomes.

This March 8, as a parenthesis in their routine, when these women go out in the street they will only find smiles. “Congratulations on Women’s Day” they will read on the mural at their workplace, the same place where the male bosses oversee the female employes and the only ones who manage the company’s vehicles are, coincidentally, men. continue reading

At mid afternoon they will stop working to share a piece of cake decorated with pink flowers and accompanied by croquettes, which they themselves have prepared the night before. A few words from the director, a man, will end with applause and will give way to the reading of the names of the “outstanding women workers.”

After the party, the honorees themselves will have to clear the table, clean the floor and take the dirty dishes home because “scrubbing is a woman’s thing.” They will watch the clock, but the date doesn’t matter. Today they also have to cook, pick up the children at school and clean.

This March 8, as a parenthesis in their routine, when these women go out to the street they will only find smiles

Down the street, the obscene stalker who, every day, launches some lascivious comment, for this day will have some corny compliment about how ugly “the world would be without women.” He will repeat his cynical words while leaning over a little to see if he can catch “a flash of thigh” under the skirts of the women passing by.

The sullen neighbor, who threw her daughter out of the house because she was pregnant before the age of 20, will be in charge of placing the sign inside the elevator greeting all the “federated and revolutionary women” living in the building.

The teenage girl, who is teased in her classroom because her mother “has had three husbands,” will read the statement at the party organized in a hallway of the apartment house. The daughter of the president of the Committee of the Revolution, who works as a prostitute to support her two children, will be in charge of hanging up balloons and handing out flowers.

The male official who lives on a high floor will talk about the Cuban women whose example should be imitated but will eliminate from the list all those the official discourse finds “uncomfortable.” The male resident who leads the surveillance operation against a dissident who lives nearby, will speak of “the delicacy” of women and “the respect they deserve.”

The owner of the private restaurant on the corner will give a flower to each female employee and tell her that today they have a 12-hour day because “there are a lot reservations for the celebration.” The woman who scrubs will get her rose in the kitchen so that she does not have to appear in the customer area of the premises, “because she does not have the necessary physical presence,” he explains.

At the premises of the neighborhood Federation of Cuban Women, a strongly perfumed female official will remember Fidel Castro, as the “leader who emancipated Cuban women”

When the restaurant opens to the public, the tables will be filled quickly and whenever someone asks for the bill, the male waiters will solicitously and smilingly hand it to the man at the table. “He is the one who has the money, of course,” says one of them, wearing a white shirt with a crooked black bow tie around his neck.

At the premises of the neighborhood Federation of Cuban Women, a strongly perfumed female official will remember Fidel Castro, as the “leader who emancipated Cuban women” and end her long tirade with a thunderous “Commander in Chief, at your orders!”

For 24 hours, everything will be designed to stall women’s grievances, to hide behind the celebrations the serious problems that run through society in terms of gender discrimination, lack of equity, sexual harassment and the disparity of economic opportunities between men and women.

The fanfare will extinguish the demands and the official events will try to mask the reality. While millions of women in the world take to the streets to demand their rights and many others join a work stoppage as a sign of dissatisfaction, this March 8, Cuban women will wear a gag composed of bouquets of flowers and cloying postcards.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

Red Meat and Social Networks

A woman connects to the internet in the wifi zone on La Rampa in Havana (EFE).

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 5 March 2018 –The first time I heard a vegan explain to a Cuban why he did not eat meat, the interaction could not have been more absurd. Although the tourist insisted on the negative effects of certain foods, my compatriot did not understand the rejection of what he considered a longed for delicacy in the midst of the economic crisis of the island.

The scene has returned to my mind lately, as I read the onslaught against social networks launched, fundamentally, by users living in hyperconnected societies. Facebook has become the new red meat of those who say they are worried about the addiction of checking one’s wall, or “likes” or the publications of others. continue reading

It is a respectable position, but it goes beyond questions of being glued to a screen waiting for a “like.” Those who promote this attitude ignore the importance of these platforms as a space for criticism, dissemination and protection of innumerable movements and people on this planet.

Social networks are a virtual territory from which many of the frameworks of opinion that later influence the polls emerge, as has been seen in several electoral processes in recent years.

To flee social networks because they share false news, and abound in frivolity and hate messages and in even more serious dangers such as sexual harassment, is leaving the field to those who promote those practices and make the Internet a place increasingly less safe. It is an attitude similar to that of the citizen who does not vote.

Social networks are a virtual territory from which many of the frameworks of opinion that later influence the polls emerge, as has been seen in several electoral processes in recent years. Not to participate in their debates, their interactions and even their fights is to lose a part of our civic space.

Like all public places, social networks are also a battlefield. One of the founders of Facebook, Sean Parker, who was the first president of the company, has publicly expressed his concern about the effect it has on us to spend too much time in that soup of emoticons, selfies and messages.

Parker points out that social networks exploit some human psychological vulnerabilities, especially those that signal our need for approval and attention. The creator of Napster considers himself a “social networks objector,” and is barely seen in any of them. It is worth noting that his assessment of the phenomenon is based on a very American experience and is influenced by the churning of Silicon Valley. To many he sounds like that vegan who tried to convince a hungry Havanan that the food they dreamed about was not a good thing for their health or for the environment.

It is worth wondering if those who, today, criticize these services, at some moment tried to influence their propensities and paths

It is worth wondering if those who, today, criticize these services, at some moment tried to influence their propensities and paths. Most Internet users rarely report a story as false or take the trouble to write to technical services to propose improvements or alert them to bad practices. Some of the passivity suffered by modern societies has been transferred to the social networks, where people accept things as they are or take refuge in their personal lives, while insisting that “politics is dirty” and it is better to stay away.

The call to cancel Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts as a strategy to save oneself from the tide of interference in one’s private life or the powerful eyes of the companies that collect personal information, is a road that leads irredeemably to abandonment by those who most need to be read and heard in these spaces.

In Latin America, in more than one case, the social networks have confronted the cravings of the region’s authoritarian governments. Without these channels, the images of repression against the popular revolts in Venezuela would have been stuck behind the iron wall of control Nicolas Maduro imposed on the national media. With the expelling of news networks and the closing of television channels, as well as the official hijacking of others, Miraflores Palace shut down most of the opportunities to narrate a country that is now narrated tweet by tweet or through the Facebook accounts of those who continue to report from within.

The same thing happens in Cuba, where the World Wide Web has marked a before and after on issues such as censorship, awareness about complaints of human rights violations and the dissemination of opposition platforms.

Are we going to shut the doors to social networks and leave these protestors on their own? Instead of a stampede, why not propose a more civic attitude among the users of these services? A greater involvement to denounce the “fake news” or those networks of trash that now flood cyberspace.

A significant share of the world’s population is more afraid of the eyes of the political police, the paramilitary groups or the dictatorship of the day in the real world

The arguments of those who promote digital asceticism include avoiding letting the mega-conglomerates like Google or that creature created by Mark Zuckerburg make use of personal information to sell us products. A kind of remote-controlled commerce where the user is seen as a conglomerate of phobias to avoid and desires to satisfy.

But that motive only applies to a certain number of people in this world, where there is also a large share of inhabitants who have never bought anything online and who get no benefit from clicking on an advertisement targeted to their interests, because they do not even have a credit card.

To think that companies peeking at the photos we publish or our list of contacts is universally feared, is a mistake made by the first world. A significant share of the world’s population is more afraid of the eyes of the political police, the paramilitary groups or the dictatorship of the day in the real world.

It should also be noted that other circumstantial phobias, the products of overkill, also appeared when the telephone allowed us to converse without meeting face to face, and predicted the end of friendship and personal relationship.

Even if we ourselves do not look at that intricate cosmogony that is made up of virtual forums, chats and walls, our life is determined to a large extent by what is published there

Coincidentally, these are the people for whom social networks are not only the way to relate what is happening to them but also a kind of protective umbrella to shelter them from repression.

As in so many things we have gone to extremes. From the illusion of believing that through digital platforms we would be able to overthrow regimes, rebuild countries and achieve democracy, to the promotion of an idyllic state of disconnection where, in theory, we are happier, less controlled and more attentive to our children.

To believe that we can take refuge in a bubble without “trending topics” is a fantasy. Even if we ourselves do not look at that intricate cosmogony that is made up of virtual forums, chats and walls, our life is determined to a large extent by what is published there. Retreating only leaves us on the sidelines, but it does not protect us from what is cooked up in the digital agora.

It is not necessary to leave social networks, but rather to help to change them.

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Editor’s Note: This text was initially published in the Spanish newspaper El País.

The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Arrival of the Potato and the President, in Priority Order

All life seems to revolve around a tuber that disappeared for months from state market stalls. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 28 February 2018 — Daybreak and the morning is different. An agitation has been running through the neighborhood since the previous afternoon, when the neighbors spotted a potato truck while it was unloading at the market on the corner. The arrival of the product caused early risings, fights and even the resale of dozens of pounds in the surrounding area.

A certain aroma of fried potato has been wafting through the air for hours and in the hallways people are exchanging ways of preparing the food “using little oil” or “so that it lasts longer.” All life seems to revolve around a tuber that for months has disappeared from the state market stalls, where now sales are limited to just five pounds per person. continue reading

One wonders if such an excitement would have been generated on the island if the first official date for the departure of Raul Castro from the presidency had been adhered to. What if he had finished his term on February 24? Would people be talking about the issue as much as they are talking today about the arrival of the potato?

Probably not. The lack of enthusiasm for an event that analysts are calling the most important historical milestone of the last decades on this Island, the “change of an era,” or the end of the reign of the surname Castro, seems to have many reasons.

There is a widespread opinion that nothing is going to change in the country, no matter who takes the helm. Passions around this succession have also cooled in part because the wait has been too long. For some it has been decades, or their whole lives, and fatigue has finally caught up with them.

Citizens share the perception that “no matter what happens up there” they will not be the ultimate beneficiaries. However, the fundamental disinterest arises from the lack of surprises in a process organized to ensure that nothing changes.

Thin slices of potato in a frying pan can have more unforeseen results than a new face for the Cuban president. There is more mystery and excitement in the arrival in the neighborhood of a truck loaded with a product that nobody has seen for months, than in the boring political game of replacing one name with another but keeping the system unchanged.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

A Spanish Ambassador in the Wrong Place

Was it the decision of the Spanish ambassador Juan José Buitrago to go to the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia and lay flowers at the monolith that holds the ashes of Fidel Castro? (Sierra Maestra)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 20 February 2018 — Five years ago, when I visited Spain for the first time, a fake photo showing me at the tomb of the dictator Francisco Franco began to circulate. I posted a brief denial on Twitter, but the incident helped me to reflect on the need to inform oneself about the history of a country one visits, its symbols, passions and animosities.

Five years later, but this time without some crude photographic manipulation, I see the Spanish ambassador on our island posing in front of the monolith containing the ashes of Fidel Castro. Juan José Buitrago de Benito, who presented his credentials last May, appears in an image standing at almost military attention, a few yards from the headstone of someone who, for almost five decades, remained in power by force. continue reading

Like any diplomat experienced in the arts of handling situations, Buitrago de Benito must have weighed the implications of taking that snapshot and leaving a floral tribute before he arrived there. He had to know that his action was going to unleash furious passions and send a clear signal of ideological positioning and a political posture sympathetic to the ruling party.

Two questions immediately come to mind seeing him there, in his impeccable guayabera under the sun Santa Ifigenia cemetery: Was it his decision to go? Did he know the connotations his visit would have?

For those who deeply understand the skillful maneuvers of the Cuban authorities to deceive every visitor to the country, one can imagine a naive ambassador who entered the cemetery to pay tribute to José Martí, national hero and son of Spaniards, and who on arriving was almost pushed to also visit the nearby Castro monolith.

If that is the case, the lack of knowledge of this reality and its codes has played a trick on Buitrago de Benito. His not knowing how to “stand firm” to avoid a trap set with premeditation and a lot of treachery, has caused a stumbling block that will mark his entire stay with us.

However, it is possible that it was his own decision, from the moment he headed to the cemetery. Then we are left to think that he is an admirer of the deceased or at least of that biography full of falsehoods and clichés that presents him as a savior of peoples, wise and just. Or another option, even worse: that with the visit to the tomb he hoped to win the favors of the authorities, who are wounded after the fiasco of the supposed future visit, recently belied, of the King and Queen of Spain to Cuba.

Any of these options, a naivety that led to a trap or a calculated intention, present the Spanish diplomat in a bad light. His visit to Santiago de Cuba, which had begun on a very good footing with the announcement of a new consulate for the eastern area, has become an unfortunate misstep in his diplomatic career.

We have yet to hear his explanations, but a photo, authentic and without trickery, has already said more than a thousand words.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The Moderate Is Also An Enemy

In the end, all of his art, his public image, and even his complaint have been determined by this entity – the faceless one – that he fears so much. (Artwork: El Sexto)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 15 February 2018 — A friend calls me sounding depressed. For years he has chosen caution and the path of moderation but even so, he wasn’t able to avoid being labeled an enemy. In his work he avoided knocking on the doors of those the government found most “uncomfortable,” rejected support that he considered “radioactive” and appealed to his own self-censorship to avoid ending up on the opposing side. It did little for him.

My friend enjoyed a period of certain advantages for not having become “a radical.” He was invited to endless embassy receptions, where he was presented as a young exponent of “a reformist tendency among the left.” There, he worked hard to demonstrate that his desires for change were within socialism and that his work contained intrinsic “constructive criticism.” continue reading

Amid the mojitos and canapés, the smiling diplomats looked on him with satisfaction, pleased that on the island there are people who don’t shout freedom slogans, who continue to work within some state institution, but who are allowed to let slip sharp accusations about the bureaucracy, the impediments of conformism and the corrupt practices, without being labeled a mercenary.

My friend was everything they needed: an artist who pushes “from within the limits,” with grace, a bit of humor and always clarifying that “Cuba is not how the dissidents paint it to be.”

Thanks to this image, he had access to funds he described as coming from foundations or entities with no ties at all Washington or the international “right.” To pave the way for such economic support, he excluded from his art those voices that he feared could “contaminate” his work and limited contact with his most “controversial” acquaintances.

Thus, stepping cautiously, like someone picking his way over broken glass, my friend managed to build a reputation as an “uncomfortable” – but not censored –artist, a citizen who demands his rights but respects the current and “authentic” Cuban system, who speaks from the shadows but also “values ​​the achievements of the Revolution.”

He never counted, so as not to break that ideal construction, the police citations he received over the last years, the arm across his shoulders from so many cultural officials inviting him to avoid certain red lines, nor the bits of evidence he was collecting about the surveillance he was subjected to.

Often, so that there would be no doubts about his loyalty to the cause, he lent his name and image to critiques, in the national media, of those who took stronger positions. Later, sotto voce, he clarified to his friends that his opinions had been manipulated by State Security while, in reality, he was sympathetic to the lost sheep.

None of it mattered. This week, the name of my friend has appeared in an article published on an official website that describes opposition leaders and moderate artists as “recalcitrant.” Years of carving a “permitted” face went up in smoke with a click.

Now he calls me, wanting to denounce the injustice to human rights organizations, crying out because he is not put in the same bag, and detailing his pedigree. It is all in vain. They never trusted him, they always considered him the system’s adversary from the moment in which he reflected, in his art, the reality and embraced, timidly, with his work, a certain plurality.

Still stomping his foot, he emphasizes in the phone call that he doesn’t want to make “a media show” of it, nor offer himself “on a silver platter to the [country to the] North,” but these explanations he is offering are not for me, but to the other person listening in on the line. In the end, all of his art, his public image, and even his complaint have been determined by this entity – the faceless one – that he fears so much.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

The ‘Yes’ Victory in Ecuador is Also a Defeat for Castroism

Lenin Moreno, Ecuador’s recently-elected president, triumphed in all 7 questions of a national referendum that was pro-democracy, pro-environment and anti-corruption. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 6 February 2018 — “For the first time, I’m a Leninist,” a Cuban retiree said repeatedly and recklessly, standing in line for the newspaper. Around him some responded with a complicit smile. A few hours before, the news of a story with profound significance for Cuba had arrived: the triumph of the ‘Yes’ vote last Sunday, in a 7-point referendum promoted by that other Lenin, the president of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno.

During the last decade, Ecuador had become a recurring reference point for  Cuba. The diplomatic closeness between Rafael Correa and Raúl Castro, the thousands of professionals who were sent to work in that geographically complex country, and the many other Cubans who made Ecuador a point of departure for migration to other places, brought both nations closer together. continue reading

Meanwhile, Cuba’s official press also played a hand with positive adjectives about a Citizen Revolution and presented Rafael Correa as an “eternal friend” who would always be there for Cuba, to close ranks against the “empire” of the North. The narrative ignored a key fact: the Andean nation was still a democracy and at some point, Correa, an economist with a PhD from an American university, would have to leave power.

The Cuban media controlled by the Communist Party, including the newspaper Granma, gave no space to critical information about the Ecuadorian president’s management of his country. Not even to question the terrible oil drilling agreement he signed with China that shorted the country 2.2 billion dollars for the anticipated sale of crude oil, according to data that have surfaced in an ongoing investigation.

Granma also remained silent on Correa’s attacks of arrogance, his lack of composure in dealing with political opponents, the judicial witch hunt he launched against the press that dared to criticize him, and the corruption plots that shook his government and have led to a six-year prison term for vice president Jorge Glas, for receiving bribes from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

After ten years in office, Correa concluded his second term and Havana reinforced its information strategy with regards to Ecuador. Lenin Moreno, Correa’s vice president, was presented as an extension of his predecessor, the docile heir of the designs of the true leader of the process who would respect the law barring him from three consecutive terms, and take a brief pause before returning triumphantly, after Moreno served one term as a ‘placeholder’.

That entire fantasy has been collapsing in recent months and was shattered this last Sunday. Moreno triumphed over the former president and his authoritarian model, cutting off the path the latter had laid for himself to return to the presidency, and, incidentally, sending a bitter message to Castroism at a time when Cuba’s so-called ‘historical generation’ is tying up the threads of succession politics.

There is no doubt, the resounding ‘Yes’ victory on all seven of the referendum’s questions is also a defeat for the Cuban regime.  Ecuadorians who chose to reestablish firm term limits and support the political disqualification of those found guilty of corruption, among other topics voted on in the popular consultation, have taken a decision that transcends their own country and touches, in particular, on this island.

With Brazil’s former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva submerged in several legal processes, Bolivia’s Evo Morales facing an imminent crisis of sustainability, Kirchnerism going through its worst moment in Argentina, Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro unable to buy support in exchange for oil, and a pathetic Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua making concessions to liberalism, the populist left has received another devastating blow in Ecuador. But this is a more effective hit because it comes from within.

After learning the results of the polls, Lenin Moreno called on his compatriots to build a country “happy, renewed, in peace and freedom.” That last word must have sounded in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution like a coup de grace.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.

‘Doctor Zhivago’, An Old Acquaintance Opens In Cuba

Screenshot of ‘Doctor Zhivago’, inspired by Boris Pasternak’s novel. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 25 January 2018 — The book was part of the private collection of a writer who went into exile and even though the title did not appeal I chanced it, bored in the midst of the publishing drought of the ‘90s. Its pages narrated a country I knew, but described a different place, convulsed, unjust and harsh. Doctor Zhivago came into my hands when the Soviet Union had disappeared and in it I found a part of the answers to explain that disaster.

A quarter of a century later, Cuban television finally broadcast the well-known film inspired by the novel, directed by British director David Lean. Released in that long ago 1965, the movie was absent from the screens of the island until 22 January of this year, though before the airing the program’s commentator warned about the picture’s ideological distortions. continue reading

An unnecessary clarification, because the story of Yuri Zhivago is well known on this island thanks to the infallible formula “there is nothing more attractive than the forbidden.” For decades, the work written by Boris Pasternak circulated from hand to hand – its cover wrapped in the boring state newspaper Granma to avoid indiscreet eyes – or, in recent years, in that elusive digital format that easily mocks the thought police.

Unlike George Orwell’s 1984Doctor Zhivago was not banned for predicting a totalitarian future that lined up along many points with our socialist Cuba, but because it described an uncomfortable past for those who wanted to present Russia as a country where the proletarians had achieved a Parnassian state of equality, comradeship and justice.

Instead of the Manichean vision taught in Cuban schools, Pasternak’s work focused on a tormented individual, shaken by social vagaries and more concerned with emerging unscathed from his circumstances than in sacrificing himself for a cause. He was an antihero far-removed from the “New Man” and the Soviet ideal.

The adventures the book had to circumvent also served as an argument to those who wielded the scissors at the Island’s publishers. Its publication in Italy 1957, the Nobel Prize it won Pasternak and the official pressures that forced him to reject the award contributed to the denial of Cubans’ right to read it.

The “camaraderie” in the Communist Bloc was filled such actions. An author censored in one of the countries that made up the vast red geography also made the blacklist in the other nations orbiting the Kremlin. Havana did not ignore that maxim and was faithful to its national stepmother, depriving its citizens of one of the twentieth century’s anthological works.

They censored it in Cuba not only out of ideological complicity with the country that economically sustained all the eccentricities of Fidel Castro, but because in its pages the Great October Socialist Revolution came out badly; it was a mass of informers, police, pressures of all kinds and lies. A suffocating scenario where the individual could barely protect her privacy and herself.

They say that when he was expelled from power, in 1964, Nikita Khrushchev read Pasternak’s novel. “We should not have banned it. I should have read it. There is nothing anti-Soviet in it,” he acknowledged then.

The Cuban censors, however, have not drafted an apology, nor is it necessary. History sounded the vigorous trumpet: the country they tried to protect from the supposed calumnies of the writer ceased to exist almost three decades ago; but Doctor Zhivago remains a vibrant and unforgettable novel.

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The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.